I’m writing this post just a few days after the events in Charlottesville. I was planning to write an Activist Reads post on racism anyway, but now it seems even more critical. Like the global pattern of misogyny, racism in America is so intricately woven into the fabric of our society that the task of unraveling it can seem overwhelming. Our country was founded on the premise of white supremacy. Our economy was built on the backs of black slaves and our land is soaked with the blood of indigenous peoples. And though much progress has been made since Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, institutionalized, subconscious, and overt racism are all still major problems in America.
Much progress has been made, but in recent months, this country has lost ground in the fight against racism. Many–probably most–of America’s presidents have been overtly, covertly, or subconsciously racist, but at least we got to the point where overt racism was unpopular enough to be frowned upon in polite society. Unfortunately, even this is no longer the case. We now have a president who, instead of clearly and decisively denouncing white supremacy, panders to it, then, to add insult to injury, lies about his pandering.
America is only as strong as we are unified, and we cannot be unified if certain people groups are discriminated against. If we want this country to succeed, if we want our economy to grow, if we want to secure a better future for generations to come, we must pull out racism by the roots. Changing discriminatory policies is essential but it’s not enough. We must also root out the psychological underpinnings of institutionalized racism and face the sins of our past head-on.16 Books on Racism in America + Ways You Can Help Move Toward EqualityClick To Tweet
Recommended Books + Resources
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Complimentary copies of some of the books mentioned here were provided by the publishers.
To learn more about the history of slavery and racism in America read The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez, and Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi.
To learn more about the history of the Civil Rights Movement read the March trilogy by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley, and A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington.
For analysis of racism as it currently exists in American society read White Rage by Carol Anderson, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, and Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson.
To learn more about institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system read my Activist Reads post, “Injustice in the Criminal Justice System.”
If you are a Christian and want to read about racism in the church read America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis, The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone, and Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way by the late Richard Twiss.
How You Can Make a Difference
Ridding our society of racism starts with white people choosing to listen to the experiences and grievances of minorities. And of course one of the best ways to do that is to read books by authors of color. The books I mentioned in this post are a great place to start.
If there’s a march for equality in your town, show up if you are able! Due to the huge turnout of counter-protestors in Boston, white supremacists canceled sixty-seven rallies in thirty-six states and moved their hate events online where, hopefully, they won’t cause any more deaths.
Donate to anti-racist organizations such as Crossroads Antiracism Organization & Training.
Also, check out this list: 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism.
What are the best books you’ve read about racism in America? What are you doing to make a difference?